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It's not them, it's you: why employees aren't using your recognition program

Kimberly Lyons
3/7/23 8:30 AM

Once an employee recognition program is live, it seems like the hard part's over. The details have been hammered out, the technology is live, the launch announcements have been sent out, everything is up and running and…seems to have stalled. 

It’s not the most uncommon situation. Most similar newly-launched programs or platforms see some drop-off after the initial interest period. But for an employee recognition program to be effective, it needs user participation from all levels of your organization. It's hard for a recognition and rewards program to achieve its goals if people aren't being recognized or rewarded. 

So what's causing the slowdown? Why is your employee recognition program going underutilized or ignored completely within your organization? Here are a few ideas for what problems could be keeping people from using your employee recognition program and how to solve them. 


There isn't an established process for adding or onboarding new employees to the platform

This might seem like a strange problem to have but you might be surprised how frequently it develops in companies after they launch their employee recognition program. Far too often companies assume the program will naturally run itself after initial set-up, and managers and employees will automatically know what various duties and tasks they'll take on after it’s live.

But problems can start when the program doesn’t have a clear administrator or the company hasn't taken the time to create certain processes and define just how different roles -- from VPs to managers to employees -- will be expected to use the program. 

Take new employee onboarding for example. Usually there’s a clear division of certain responsibilities - Human Resources handles paperwork for insurance and payroll; the Tech/IT department sets them up with company logins, email, phones or computers; their manager or supervisor introduces them to their coworkers and gets them set up on the projects and work they’ll be doing moving forward. 

Somewhere in that onboarding process there should be a point where the new employee is added and walked through the various details of the company’s employee recognition program. But where does that responsibility fall? Human Resources? The new employee’s manager or supervisor? If this onboarding tasks isn’t clearly assigned from the beginning, it can quickly cause issues: managers might think HR has been taking care of it or vice versa, only to find out later that the new employees have been missing out on opportunities to participate and earn recognitions because they were never added to the program. 

Even if the responsibility of adding new employees to the ER program is clearly assigned, the department or persons in charge need to know how to do so: what information is required to add a new employee, how to create new member IDs, the right user permissions that need to be set, and more.  

This is why it’s important to create guides and resources to help with onboarding for all roles and user types, whether they're admin or regular employees. FAQs, help articles, and how-to videos are all resources that can help users understand their responsibilities and learn the ins and outs of your program, which will make it more likely they'll consistently use it moving forward. 


Your program's employee recognitions aren't clear, visible, or recognizable. 

It's more than possible to create a great employee recognition program with awesome rewards and programs that drive engagement and behaviors. What that requires is setting clear and understandable criteria for how recognitions are earned. If employees are being recognized for seemingly random actions or if recognitions are distributed sporadically with no rhyme or reason, this can cause problems; it makes the program seem at best inconsistent and at worst unfair. If this persists for too long employees can begin to feel discouraged and could potentially end up resenting the program. 

The first step towards solving this problem is ensuring employees and managers know what the criteria is for a recognition-worthy behavior or achievement. The second step is ensuring the program consistently follows through on the recognitions every time. This consistency will build confidence and help encourage the participation or action levels you want to see from employees. 

This also includes setting clearly defined expectations for how employees should be using the program on a consistent basis. For example, if you want employees to use the program’s different features and tools for themselves or within their teams, you need to establish what those expectations are: how and when they can create polls or surveys, if teams are supposed to nominate one coworker a quarter for a particular recognition or award, etc. 


Your program is only about rewarding achievements instead of celebrating & appreciating employee qualities

Employee recognition and appreciation should go much much farther than just rewarding hard numbers or top results. There’s more to being a top, well-rounded employee than high-performance, and your recognition program should reflect that. 

Think about your company's values and mission statement, your brand goals and vision. Chances are you want your employees to emulate and demonstrate qualities that align with certain values like integrity, respect, teamwork, creativity, the willingness to help out or step up to solve problems, etc. These are not always major achievements, but rather everyday types of occurrences that are too often easily overlooked and go unappreciated…that is, unless you have a program in place to specifically identify and recognize employees when these occurrences happen.

Only recognizing hard achievements limits what your program can do and the positive impact it can have on your organization. By including opportunities in your program to recognize employees who demonstrate worthy behaviors or qualities, you can show that you appreciate them for more than just what they produce - you appreciate who they are as a person.

This also gives managers and team leads the ability to encourage the ideal behaviors or qualities they want to see more of within their teams. Celebrating when their employees show integrity, reliability, mentoring or leadership skills, creative problem-solving, and more can help build team morale and motivate employees to keep developing in these areas. 

Your employee recognition program can help your workers and thus your company achieve great things - so don't let it fall into disuse or allow problems like these to hinder user participation and engagement. Take the time to remove any roadblocks that are holding your program back and see how consistent and meaningful recognition and appreciation can make your employees shine. 

Check out our recognition and rewards platform which provides organizations of all sizes with simple, customizable solutions to engage and inspire employees to perform their best.

See our pricing or talk to one of our experts today.

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